As a result of a recent change to the Public PAIR (Patent Application Information Retrieval),  most provisional applications that are relied upon for their earlier filing dates in U.S. patent application publications or U.S. patents are now available to the public over the Internet. Exceptions mainly include provisional applications with filing dates prior to 1997.

Anyone wishing to view and/or print a copy of a provisional application relied upon by an examiner to give prior art effect under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) to a reference applied in a rejection, may do so using the Public PAIR website.

It will be interesting to see how this effects patentability opinions whenever the earlier-filed provisional substantially deviates from the substance of the later-filed regular patent application.  Obviously, for there to be a published provisional patent application, a non-provisional patent application must have been filed claiming priority to the earlier provisional.  More info here.

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